“A Humboldt Park museum led by a longtime former alderman has been ordered to stop construction on a cinder-block building after city officials found the project got underway without correct permits.
“The National Puerto Rican Museum of Arts & Culture, which occupies a landmarked building at 3015 W. Division St. in Humboldt Park’s namesake park, is building a secondary facility on park land directly next to the museum. Once complete, the building will store the museum’s archives and art collections, Executive Director Billy Ocasio said. Ocasio served as 26th Ward alderman from 1993 to 2009.
“Preservationists and neighbors questioned how the rectangular, cinder-block structure was permitted to go up next to the Queen Anne-style stables, which date back to the 1890s. As it turns out, the project did not receive necessary permits or clear layers of city and state approval to start construction, officials said. A stop-work order was issued Sept. 25, city officials said.
“The site was abandoned Tuesday, with a half-built cinder-block structure, building tools and machinery cordoned off by construction fencing and police tape.
“The museum operates out of Humboldt Park’s oldest-surviving structure, the Humboldt Park receptory and stables, a Park District-owned building built in 1895 for horses, and as storage for wagons and landscaping tools. Designated a Chicago landmark in 2008, the building also housed the office of renowned landscape architect and then-park Supt. Jens Jensen.
“Ocasio said they’ve been trying to build a climate-controlled storage and archives building on the site since before the pandemic, and they secured $750,000 in state capital funds in 2020 to bring the project to life. Ocasio said the building will be no more than two stories tall.
“No building permits have been issued for the project, city records show.
“‘The general contractor listed on the application has received over 130 permits since 2000 and would know that a building permit was required prior to any work,’ a city spokesman said.
“Local preservationists and neighbors who frequent the park are concerned the facility will detract from the beauty and charm of the landmarked stables building and the park, which is on the National Register of Historic Places.
“‘It’s important for the museum to have a place to store their art, but they should be able to do it through a process that ensures that their singular purpose doesn’t negate the incredibly hard work the city has put toward preserving Humboldt Park and the Humboldt Park stables,’ said Mary Lu Seidel with Preservation Chicago.
“‘You’re not just talking about some building on the corner that has no history or character; you’re talking about a Chicago landmark and a National Register of Historic Places park that we don’t want to impact.’
“Neighbor Bridget Montgomery said the museum appears poised to ‘slap up’ the facility without any regard for the site’s rich history.
“‘To build a new building on the same site as a historic landmark, especially one that has such important to the area — it’s ignorant and sort of insulting,’ Montgomery said.” (Bloom, Block Club Chicago, 10/12/22)
Preservation Chicago is committed to strengthening the vibrancy of Chicago’s economy and quality of life by championing our historic built environment. Preservation Chicago protects and revitalizes Chicago’s irreplaceable architecture, neighborhoods and urban green spaces. We influence stakeholders toward creative reuse and preservation through advocacy, outreach, education, and partnership.